Interpol arrests over 1,000 people, seizes $27m in large-scale fraud operation

A four-month long operation conducted by Interpol between June and September this year has led to the arrest of 1,003 individuals and capturing of $27m in illegal cash.

Operation HAECHI-II targeted cyber-enabled financial crime and saw specialised police units from over 20 jurisdictions join together to combat online fraud. These frauds ranged from investment fraud, romance scams and money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.

The countries who participated in the project were Angola, Brunei, Columbia, Cambodia, China, India, Hong Kong, Ireland, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Korea, Maldives, Malaysia, Romania, the Philippines, Slovenia, Spain, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. Interpol claimed HAECHI-II was the first operation that was genuinely ‘global in scale’.

According to Regulation Asia, investigators in the operation were able to close 1,660 cases and freeze 2,350 bank accounts related to the illegal proceeds of online financial crime.

The operation was also used to pilot test a new global stop-payment mechanisms called the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), which Interpol stated was ‘crucial’ in intercepting illegal payments. Interpol’s financial crime unit is now working alongside its member nations to incorporate ARRP into communications channels in order to prepare for its full implementation next year.

Interpol said that Operation HAECHI-II has ‘debunked perceptions of online fraud being a low-level, low stakes crime. Instead it showed that transnational organised crime groups have been using the Internet to extract millions from their victims before funnelling the illicit cash to bank accounts across the globe.’

During the operation, over 50 Interpol notices were issued based on information gathered from the project, while ten new criminal tactics were discovered. This intelligence will be shared with Interpol’s 194 member countries to allow law enforcement agencies to exchange information on emerging criminal methods and establish connections between cases.

Interpol secretary general Jürgen Stock said, “The results of Operation HAECHI-II show that the surge in online financial crime generated by the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of waning. Only through this level of global cooperation and coordination can national law enforcement effectively tackle what is a parallel cybercrime pandemic.”

Interpol assistant director José De Gracia added, “Sharing information on emerging threats is vital to the ability of police to protect the victims of online financial crime. It also lets police know that no country is alone in this fight. Operation HAECHI-II shows that we can successfully strike back against this threat when we act together.”

Operation HAECHI-II was the second operation of a three-year programme to counter cyber-enabled financial crime. Earlier this year, Interpol concluded HAECH-I, which resulted in 585 arrests, over 1,600 bank account freezes and the interception of $83m in illicit funds.

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